If you’re a gamer, it’s likely that some of your game save files are among the most important data on your system. They are snapshots of your computer’s memory as you progress through a game.
How annoying would it be if you lost your game save files of an RPG when you were dozens of hours into the game? You don’t have to guess, I can tell you — from experience — it is mind bogglingly annoying. So annoying in fact that often you cannot bear to start over the game even if it might have been one you’d replay otherwise. Annoying, isn’t it? Even more annoying than repeating the word “annoying” five sentences in a row. You bet.
Back ‘em up
Unfortunately, finding all your game save files is a game in itself, but not as much fun as you might think. Depending on whether your game is on Steam, uses Games for Windows Live, installed from a disc and endless variations thereof, you are in for one game of hide and seek. What’s worse is that the location could change depending not only on the game, but the version of the game as well.
If your game is on Steam and supports Steam cloud, you have nothing to worry about. Steam cloud is a feature that automatically synchronises your saves to the Steam servers, so they are not only backed up, they are also available everywhere. Of course, not all Steam games support this, and it is likely not all your games will be on Steam. To find out if the game supports it, you can look out for the cloud icon in the Steam list view, or check the game’s page on Steam.
Of course, there is a point in backing up even Steam games that support this cloud save feature. After all it does not maintain multiple backed up versions, and if you do manage to accidentally delete a game save or your file gets corrupted, it will simply sync your broken saves to all your computers.
Three game save backup tools
So, here are three backup applications designed entirely for games. What that means is that they automatically detect game save locations – well actually they ship with a database of where each game saves its files – and can compress and back up those files.
- SaveGameBackup.net — This one is probably the simplest one of the lot. It lists all the installed games, asks you for a path to save backups to, and with one click of the backup button, the process starts. It keeps the database of games updated, and you can add your own entries if you have a weird game that isn’t supported. Also, it can back up your Flash cache, so your Flash games are safe as well.
- GameSave Manager — This tool has more than just a game save backup manager; and unlike the above, it can schedule backups. It has a Sync & Link feature that automatically links your saves to your Dropbox (or other) folder so you have syncing right away; this means your saves will be backed up even when the software isn’t running. If your Steam drive is running out of space, it also has a feature that lets you spread it across multiple drives.
- MASGAU — This small application is simple yet thorough. It can not only schedule backups, but also includes an application that can detect when your game save files change and automatically run a backup when you quit the game; normally it zips up your saves, but it can sync them to a folder instead, which can then be synced to the net.
The Cloudy Bit
Of course, there is another piece to this puzzle, the backup to the cloud part. This is where you go with your instincts; use whichever one suits you best. Everyone has their favourite syncing / backup service or tool, be it Dropbox, SugarSync or any other.
Simply point your sync tool to the directory you choose to backup your game saves, or point the above tools to the directory your sync tool backs up, and you are good to go.
If you want to use multiple computers, and want the process to be as transparent as the one you get with Steam, you’ll need to go with GameSave Manager or MASGAU and use the sync option. Otherwise the compressed versions of your backups will be synced and you will have to manually go through the additional step of restoring on the other side.
Dropbox and SugarSync have a feature that automatically keeps previous versions of a file if you upload a new version, so you might not need to maintain multiple backups.
If your game saves are as precious to you as any of the other memorable documents, photos and videos you back up regularly – we hope – then these tools should be indispensable.